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A Shot at the Dark – DPT vs DTaP

Everyone knows that the DPT vaccine caused a lot of vaccine injuries, right?

“I got interested in the topic of vaccines way back in medical school. A friend of mine convinced me to read a book about vaccines, and it ended up being a very anti-vaccine book. It was all about an old vaccine called the DTP vaccine that we don’t use anymore. But the book talked a lot about the risks and the dangers of that vaccine. The author of that book was calling for that vaccine to no longer be used.

A number of years later, it turns out that they did discover that vaccine was causing a lot of very severe, life-threatening, even fatal side effects, so they did end up taking that vaccine off the market.

So it kind of opened my eyes to the fact that there are some very severe, fortunately very rare, side effects to vaccines, and I wanted to learn more about this issue. I started reading a lot more books.”

Bob Sears, MD on The Vaccine War

After all, it was after reports of those vaccine injuries, including seizures and encephalitis, that led to:

  • lawsuits and many pharmaceutical companies to stop making vaccines
  • the DPT: Vaccine Roulette special airing on TV
  • Barbara Loe Fisher, believing that her child was damaged by the DPT vaccine, forming the Dissatisfied Parents Together organization (she later changed the name to the National Vaccine Information Center), and writing the book DPT: A Shot in the Dark (this is the anti-vaccine book that Bob Sears is talking about above)
  • the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Act passing in 1986, creating the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and the Vaccine Court
  • the DTaP vaccine replacing the DTP vaccine

But were those reports true?

And did they ever really discover that the DPT “vaccine was causing a lot of very severe, life-threatening, even fatal side effects,” which led to them “taking that vaccine off the market” as Dr. Bob said?

A Shot at the Dark

It is easy to think that they were true, as we don’t use the DTP vaccine anymore.

But was it ever “taken off the market?”

“During the period of transition from use of whole-cell DTP to DTaP, whole-cell DTP is an acceptable alternative to DTaP for any of the five doses. For the first four doses, whole-cell DTP combined with Hib vaccine (DTP-Hib vaccine) is an acceptable alternative to DTaP and Hib vaccine administered at separate sites.”

ACIP on Pertussis Vaccination: Use of Acellular Pertussis Vaccines Among Infants and Young Children Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices

No, it was replaced by a newer vaccine – DTaP.

And actually, it is still used in some parts of the world.

The whole-cell DTP vaccine did cause more side effects than the newer DTaP vaccine, but we are talking about relatively mild side effects, like local reactions, pain, and fever. And while that it is good, it comes at a cost, a less effective vaccine.

What about epilepsy and encephalitis?

After all of the scare about the DPT vaccine, studies quickly showed that it didn't cause all of the bad side effects that folks say it did.
After all of the scare about the DPT vaccine, studies quickly showed that it didn’t cause all of the bad side effects that folks say it did.

One clue that the DTP vaccine didn’t cause many of the problems that were blamed on it, is that the same vaccine lawsuits that were succeeding in driving vaccine manufacturers out of business in the United States, were failing in the UK.

“Where given effects, such as serious neurological disease or permanent brain damage, occur with or without pertussis vaccination, it is only possible to assess whether the vaccine is a cause, or more precisely a risk factor, when the background incidence of the disease is taken into account. The question therefore is, does the effect occur more often after pertussis vaccination than could be expected by chance?”

Justice Jeremy Stuart-Smith

There is also the fact that many children who were originally thought to have been vaccine injured after their DPT vaccine are now known to have Dravet syndrome.

Without a diagnosis, Cossolotto said, she would probably still believe — erroneously — that the DPT shot caused Michaela’s illness. “I understand this is a genetic condition,” she said. “Having an answer does make a difference.”

Medical mystery: Seizures strike baby after routine vaccine

And then there are the reports and studies that found:

  • no association with brain injury, epilepsy, SIDS, or infantile spasms
  • no increased risk for serious neurological illness in the week after getting vaccinated with DPT
  • no increased risk for encephalopathy in the 90 days after receiving DTP and MMR vaccines
  • no difference in severe reactions after DPT vs DTaP, including encephalopathy, seizures, and allergic reactions

So no, the DPT vaccine was never really as dangerous as folks said or thought it was, despite what you might read or hear in anti-vaccine books or news reports.

What to Know About the Safety of the DPT Vaccine

Misconceptions about the risks and safety of the DPT vaccine created the modern anti-vaccine movement and unfortunately, continues to influence many people.

More on the Safety of the DPT Vaccine


1 thought on “A Shot at the Dark – DPT vs DTaP”

  1. Thanks Mom and Dad

    I stumbled on your article by way of a spontaneous personal memory followed by a quick Google search “DPT shot stopped talking”. Reason being, I am a product of reactions from the DPT shot. Mercifully, I am fine today and have minimal recollection of the events – but indeed at about 9mos – 1 year, following the DPT shot my few words became mute – apparently my reaction and expression was still the same, cognitive ability and social skills – same, but the babbling and brief phrases were no longer. I will be forever thankful for my parents who had the wherewithal, time, resources to manage the situation and immediately address the problem – I met with occupational therapists and speech therapists to, as I have been told, re-pattern the brain. This was in addition to the Montesorri school I attended from about 18mos – 5 yrs. The therapy only continued for a couple of years, so much so – my memories are faint… maybe my last session was age 4 (?) at which point I talking in complete sentences and continuing to meet or exceed all academic benchmarks. I only share this comment, something I have never posted – rarely even discuss (it doesn’t define me, I don’t really think about it) – because while I agree maybe not all cases noted turned out to be legitimate – some cases are – like mine. To be honest, I didn’t know what I would find when I searched Google but I find all of these plentiful alleged cases most interesting. Now in my mid-30’s, I had asked my mom some time ago how difficult the challenge to allow for the DPT shot for my little sister (we are 2.5 years apart). She said while challenging, she and my father consulted with the doctor and opted to move forward – and great news – no effects on my little sister (older brother – DPT shot too and no issues). I am a functioning PR/ Marketing Manager – all has been well, and why I suddenly Googled today – I am not sure. Simply sharing here though bc while the article dismisses many of the cases, rightfully so, there is my case which was never reported and without my parents being a hyper vigilant advocate for me – finding solutions and therapy – who knows if I would have regained my speech again. Hope this helps! (… or causes even added case study work to find even greater solutions!) Thanks!

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